8/14/2011

Dancing in the center

What is the center?

Every presidential election season regardless of the candidates or the particular issues facing the nation a certain political dance occurs. The dance is well known and well choreographed by the political handlers regardless of the party. It goes something like this.

During the primaries candidates tend to posture themselves in order to appeal to their "base". The "base" of each party is comprised primarily of those persons most involved in the political  process, the most informed, the most politically active and generally the most committed to whichever end of political spectrum that the party represents IE Democrat-Liberalism/Progressive and Republican-Conservative. However if you belong to the "base" of a political party the other parties "base" is simply referred to as the "fringe".

The reason presidential candidates attempt to appeal to their "base" is obvious. The candidate needs to win the base in order to win the primaries in order to win the nominations since generally speaking the "base" turns out in proportionally greater numbers during primaries than during the general election when more less passionate voters, vote. This is the fist step of the dance.

The second step is for the winning candidate to quickly unite all the various opponents and their supporters within his own party which he has spent the last two years bashing in order that they will support him. This usually is not too difficult being as the ideological divide between the two parties is still such that few "base" voters for either party would ever support the other parties candidate. At worst dissatisfied "base" voters will "sit it out". These folks just take a seat against the wall and sulk as they resentfully watch the final steps to the dance taking place under the spot lights in the center of the dance floor.

The final steps to our dance is truly in the center, this is where the two candidates having secured their "base" as best as they can now begin to reach out and try to appeal to the so called "political center". These are the people who may lean towards one side of the political spectrum but who are not very active in politics except when they vote during the general election. They are not overly "committed" so they can be swayed.

Getting non "base" voters to turn out for a candidate is the key to presidential elections. In 2008 Obama was able to generate excitement and action from a usually dormant  segment of the electorate, the youth vote. This in part fueled his election.

The 2008 election was unique in one very important aspect, it was one of the few presidential elections ever and the first since 1952 in which neither the incumbent president or vice-president was a candidate, it was wide open. Nobody was running on the record of the previous administration good or bad.

This of course will not be true in 2012, Obama will either have to run on his record or as seems the strategy now he will have to simply try to destroy his opponent in the eyes of the "center". Or as a Washington Examiner editorial put it:
It's a long road to the White House in 2012, however, and regardless who becomes the GOP nominee, that candidate will face a formidable opponent willing to do most anything to win. Emphasis on "anything."
But regardless of the strategy, the most important question is, where is the center ? Basically for my entire life conventional wisdom has been that America is a center right country which all polling data consistently confirms.


This ideological make up does not however translate to party affiliation. Some self identified  conservatives are Democrats or Independents and this is why despite the fact that conservatives are the majority in an ideological context, Democrats have a slight lead in party affiliation, Putting aside conservative Democrats who by all accounts are dwindling in influence if not in fact actual numbers, the key it would seem is where do the majority of Independents fit ideologically. The very fact that so many people identify themselves as conservative yet Democrats lead in party identification shows that a majority of Independents lean conservative. In other words more conservatives have left the Republican Party or are unwilling to be identified with the Republican Party for one reason or another allowing the Democrats to have an advantage. This it would seem is a problem that the Republicans created by not adequately identifying and maintaining their core constituency-conservatives.

Proof of this comes from the Tea Party Movement which the media loves to identify as extreme right wing or ultra conservative. In a recent article in American Thinker titled Dems' Risky Tea Party Smear Strategy, the author makes this observation from Gallup Poll numbers:
As initial survey data showed (click here), a sizable portion of the Tea Party movement is non-Republican. A Gallup poll from March 2010 found that 50% of "Tea Party identifiers" were Republicans while 43% identified as independents and 7% as Democrats. That's a perfect 50:50 split.
Obviously the Tea Party Movement is considered conservative though I, as one of the 43% of the movement who is not a Republican, would describe it as a constitutional movement rather than a conservative movement. Regardless the fact remains that the political entity most identified and depicted as most conservative is comprised with nearly half independents.

It is also interesting to note that depending on which poll you believe, people who identify themselves as Tea Party members are between 18-26% of the electorate. Taking the low end of this number it shows that roughly 20% of Americans are members of the Tea party which is about the same number as identify themselves as liberal.


So in effect the "fringe" of  conservatism in America is as large as the entirety of liberal America. To put it another way, fully half of the dominant ideology in America belongs to the Tea Party and nearly half of them are independents.

All of which ought to make everyone question what is really mainstream in America and it certainly is not the media.

Finding the Center

There are of course many reason not to be identified with either party such as "pro-life" Democrats or "pro-choice" Republicans whose commitment to a particular issue will not permit them to be identified with a party they do not support on a single issue. Rather than being identified with a party on an issue they feel strongly about they simply become independents.

With apologies to Rush Limbaugh I do not believe that the majority of independents in America are the "wishy washy middle". In fact I believe that the majority of independents fall into three categories all of which are more right of center than left.

 The first group is disaffected Republicans who have given up on the Republican Party for not living up to the parties foundation principles, this would probably be a majority of that 43% of independents in the Tea Party.

The second group are former Democrats such as myself (and such other defectors as Ronald Reagan and Rick Perry) that recognize that the Democratic Party for all practical purposes on the national level at least is the Progressive Party and over the past several generations has totally turned on it's head the principles that it was founded on by Thomas Jefferson.

The third group probably the smallest of the three but growing are Libertarians, which ironically most closely represent the foundation principles of.the Democratic Party of Thomas Jefferson.

I would suggest that the second and third groups above along with many single issue voters are in the group who self identify themselves as "moderate" knowing that they are not liberal yet not wanting to be identified with "conservatives".  Let me give you an example of why a person who by all accounts would be considered a conservative would not want to be identified as one.

Recently Rick Perry caused a controversy when he said:
"Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That's New York, and that's their business, and that's fine with me. That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business."
 Now there is no doubt that Rick Perry is a Christian, a social conservative and as a personal and a political matter is opposed to gay marriage. The very same article points out that as governor of Texas he signed an amendment to the Texas state Constitution outlawing gay unions. Yet conservatives bashed him for the statement, a statement which is totally consistent with the original intent of the Constitution of the United States which conservatives claim they wish to protect.

As Andrew McCarthy put it on a similar issue:

That is the way our system is supposed to work. The federal government has a few discrete areas of national concern to regulate. The rest belong to the states and the people, to regulate or not as they see fit. In a free society, that means decisions on most matters of community life get made by the community that has to live with them — and pay for them. In a pluralistic society, that means we could have 50 different ways of doing things — meaning that if you find yourself in a state that is foolish enough to mandate the purchase of health insurance subsidized by taxes or penalties, you are free to move to some state that isn’t.

The inability in a federalist system to impose a “one size fits all” solution on every choice decompresses a society — which is now a society of over 300 million people with very different ideas about how we should live. It promotes social harmony by allowing people to gravitate to the communities where life best suits them.

I believe many things but one of the things I believe most is that it is not my right or duty to force my beliefs on others. I have no problem trying to convince others to my point of view that is why I post what I do on this blog. It is difficult enough to change peoples minds less alone trying to force a change in someones heart. Often times this is what conservatives do, they do as the left does, they attempt to use the constitution to enforce their beliefs on others when in fact the Constitution was designed for precisely the opposite.

Andrew McCarthy again:
I confess to thinking we’ve lost our way. The Framers gave us a federal constitution for a confident, self-determining people — people who could be trusted to make sensible choices, to govern themselves through legislation rather than be strait-jacketed in the uncompromising logic of law.

I happen to think gay marriage is an oddity — a category error that misconstrues the concept and institution of marriage. But I also appreciate that many people of good will (as opposed to people pushing a corrosive, anti-establishment agenda) would permit it out of an admirable desire to treat homosexuals with compassion and accord them some of the legal privileges (tax treatment, property rights, inheritance, etc.) attendant to marriage.

I’m not crazy about the idea, but neither am I threatened by it. I don’t believe there are enough gay people who will want to marry that the institution of marriage will be meaningfully imperiled. Public opinion remains decidedly against gay marriage, and most states will never permit it. I don’t see the harm in allowing the few states that would vote to permit it do just that — as long as other states may ban it in accordance with their own public policy, and as long as it is not a stealth invalidation of sincerely held religious beliefs. Gay marriage should never mean that Catholic adoption services must place babies with gay couples or cease operating.

Some respond, “Well, if you permit gay marriage, what’s to stop polygamy?” But if X then Y is a legal argument. We are a body politic, not the slaves of remorseless chains of legal reasoning. Legislation that permits one set of arrangements doesn’t require us to take the next step on the slippery slope.

Abortion is a heinous moral wrong because it takes human life. It is no less a taking of human life if conception is the result of rape or incest. Yet our society, fully understanding why it is revolted by abortion, favors these exceptions. And it wants abortion banned, but it does not want doctors and women prosecuted. These may not be logical distinctions, but they are sensible ones. They are accommodations that enable us to live harmoniously without agreeing. And they would prevent the vast majority of abortions.

If you want the federal constitution to ban something, then amend it. A constitutional amendment is not a prohibition imposed by the federal government, for the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. government are not the same thing. The Constitution is the compact of the people setting forth the terms on which we are bound together as a nation. In essence, it cannot be amended unless the provision in question garners super-majority support (two-thirds) in Congress, and then super-duper majority assent (three-fourths) in the states.

If banning state health-care mandates, gay marriage, and abortion, or other conservative policy prescriptions, can surmount those high hurdles, then they truly are reflective of the national will — of what it means to be an American. That is what is minimally necessary before they should be imposed as a condition of living in the United States. Same for the Left’s agenda. If a policy preference can’t meet that demanding test, then by all means continue trying to convince people to see it your way. But in the meantime, these are matters for the states to decide for themselves — and we ought to be confident that our fellow Americans will make rational choices, even if they differ from the choices we would make.
For some time I have considered myself a moderate, even though most people knowing my views would label me a conservative. I do not wish to be "lumped" in with people who wish to force their views on others even though I may agree with them . It is the left however that not only wishes to force their views on others but is willing to use the power of the state to do so.

In my mind the truly conservative path as well as the traditional liberal path are basically the same path. Yet both parties which claim to represent these roads have veered so far from the center that anyone attempting to dance in the center is considered "fringe".

The founder of the Democratic Party is also one of the most revered personages of the right yet both the right and the left in this country have totally lost site of the simplicity of his message which were best summed up by these words.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.




Thomas Jefferson


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